Tag Archives: Bible Garden

Caught in a Thicket

Photograph is Chaste tree flower in St. John Lutheran Bible Garden

Bible Reference: Genesis 22:1-19.

Isaac was the son that God promised Abraham and Sarah – the son through whom all the peoples of the earth would be blessed. When Isaac was about 16 years old, God commanded Abraham to take Isaac to the region of Mount Moriah and sacrifice him as a burnt offering.

Abraham didn’t hesitate or question God’s command. Early the next morning, Abraham, Isaac, and two servants started walking toward Mount Moriah. As Abraham and Isaac walked together, Isaac asked his father where the lamb was for the burnt offering. Abraham responded that God would provide the lamb.

When they reached Mount Moriah, Abraham built an altar, arranged wood on it, and bound Isaac on top of the wood. Abraham picked up his knife, prepared to slay Isaac. At the last minute, the angel of the Lord told Abraham to not kill Isaac. The angel commended Abraham for fearing God enough to sacrifice his son.

Abraham looked up and saw a ram caught by the horns in a nearby thicket. The thicket held the ram in place in much the same way that Isaac’s bindings held him on the altar. Just as Isaac didn’t struggle against his bindings, the Bible doesn’t indicate that the ram struggled to loosen its horns from the thicket. The ram was simply there, waiting for Abraham to see it. Abraham killed the ram and offered it as a burnt offering.

What is a Thicket?

Although Abraham, Isaac, and the ram played major roles in this Bible episode, so did the thicket. A thicket is a group of wild shrubs and occasional small trees which grow together to form impenetrable branches and roots. In thickets, trees rarely grow more than 10-20 feet tall. Often shrubs have thorns and vines entangle with them. Trees and shrubs that could have composed the Mount Moriah thicket were the chaste tree, prickly juniper, and myrtle.Chaste Tree Flower

Abraham’s planned sacrifice of Isaac on Mount Moriah was in approximately 2050 B.C. At that time, much of the Judean Mountains including Mount Moriah was tree covered; however, approximately 30-40 years earlier, a natural or manmade disaster (earthquake, flood, or fire) occurred. Thickets grow only in response to disturbances where large trees are destroyed.

In present day Israel, many wild trees and shrubs have been replaced by plants, e.g., flowers and domesticated trees; however, some thickets still grow where cultivated land was abandoned. An example is the Ramat Hanadiv Nature Park northwest of Jerusalem. When we hiked a park trail, we didn’t see a ram; however, cattle foraged the area. It was easy to image one reaching into the thicket for succulent leaves and getting its horns tangled in branches.

For wilderness hikers, a thicket can be a difficult landscape to traverse. Often when experienced hikers encounter a thicket, they don’t enter it; they go around the thicket. Trying to go through a tangled, thorn-infested thicket can result in loss of direction and damage to skin and clothes.

My friend from Texas calls the chaste tree a “Texas lilac” Its if from the Genus,  Vitus. They are perennials and grow all over the Roanoke Valley (plant zones 6 and 7).

Symbolism

The Hebrew word for thicket comes from the word çâbak, which means to entwine in the sense of interwoven branches. In English, entanglement means to wrap or twist together and to ensnare. Often entanglements cause confusion. Imagine the confusing thoughts that Satan brought to Abraham’s mind during the three day walk to Mount Moriah; e. g., “Surely God doesn’t mean for you to sacrifice Isaac? A God that really loved and cared about you would never require you to kill your beloved son.”

In contrast to the ram entangled in the thicket, Abraham didn’t become entangled in Satan’s lies or become confused by his limited understanding of God and the situation. Abraham obeyed God, believing that God would keep his promise and Isaac would be the father of all nations.

Reflection: Think about a time when you were wrapped up, twisted, or entangled in a problem. Did God fit in anywhere? Knowing what you know now, how could you have involved God more?

I love Bible plants along with their symbolism. If you want to learn more about them, read my book God as a Gardener. You can purchase them from my website: Carolyn Roth Ministry at http://www.CarolynRothMinistry.com/

Copyright July 21, 2017: Carolyn A. Roth

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Linen Curtains in the Tabernacle

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Read how Tabernacle Curtains were made and used in Exodus 26:1–6 and 31-37; Exodus 27:9–19; and Exodus chapter 28.

Flax was used extensively in the Tabernacle to make linen. Flax is native to the eastern Mediterranean region and was an important crop in Egypt since the 5th millennium B.C.  The linen curtains, the blue, purple and scarlet embroidery yarn, and the linen priest’s clothes came from the flax plant. The two craftsmen, Bezalel and Oholiab, God designated to oversee building of the Tabernacle were given skill as designers and embroiderers in blue, purple and scarlet yarn and in fine linen (Exodus 35:35). 

In the Tent of Meeting, a curtain (veil) made of fine woven linen hung between the Holies of Holy and the Most Holy of Holies. Cherubim were embroidered on the veil with blue, purple and scarlet yarn.  The Tent of Meeting roof was made of linen curtains. The curtains draped over the outside of the gold-covered acacia wood panels.  Cherubim made of purple, blue and scarlet yarn were woven or worked into the linen curtains.  A fine linen curtain covered the entrance of the Tent of Meeting (east side).  The entrance curtain included colored yarn, however, there were no cherubim on the curtain.  The sides of the Tabernacle courtyard were plain linen curtains held in place by silver hooks that attached them to the wood posts.  The curtain at the courtyard entrance was the only courtyard curtain that included colored yarn.  An embroiderer was used to make the entrance curtain.  

Aaron was the first Israelite high priest. God gave very specific instructions for making his   clothes.   The clothes included the breastplate, ephod, robe, tunic, turban, sash, and undergarments.   All were made with fine linen.  With the exception of the tunic and undergarments, all linen clothes were embroidered with or used colored yarn.  No sandals or shoes were included as part of the high priest’s clothing.  The rationale for lack of sandals was that when Aaron ministered to the Lord he was on holy ground.  As priests, Aaron’s sons had special clothes.   Their clothes included tunics, sashes, headbands, and undergarments made of linen; no colored yarn or embroidery was used.

 In the Bible, the Hebrew word for the linen associated with the Tabernacle is shêsh. Shêsh means “fine linen” and denotes a type of Egyptian linen of peculiar whiteness and fineness. When Egyptians wove fine linen, they used as many as 140 strands of threads per inch lengthwise (warf) and 64 strands per inch horizontal (weft). Linen of this fine weave had the appearance of silk. In ancient times fine linen was a mark of quality and associated with wealth and rank. Fine linen was the usual dress of Egyptian priests and royalty.  Pharaoh dressed Joseph in fine linen when Joseph was promoted to second-in command over all Egypt (Genesis 41:41–43). Egyptian fine linen was exquisite – it was soft and flexible but strong, cool to wear, and had a luster or sheen to its whiteness.

As slaves in Egypt, the Israelites would not have possessed much, if any, fine linen; however, when they left Egypt, the Egyptians gave them tribute.  The tribute included clothes and more than likely included fine linen and yarn for spinning linen (Exodus 12:35-36). When Moses asked the Israelites for offerings to build the Tabernacle, he specified the need for blue, purple, and scarlet yarn and fine linen (Exodus 25:3).  Exodus recorded that skilled women spun fine linen and blue, purple and scarlet yarn and brought these as offerings for the Tabernacle (Exodus 35:25-26).  There is no record that women wove the yarn into linen cloth for curtains or priest’s clothes.

 The Flax Plant

The Ancient Egyptian flax plant, Linum usitatissimum, was used to make linen.  In Biblical times flax was the most important fiber crop. Probably the L. usitatissimum originated in Mesopotamia; however, it was extensively cultivated in Egypt and less so in Palestine.  In Egypt flax grew along the sides the Nile River and particularly in the Nile Delta region. In Egypt and the Middle East, flax was planted in the early winter and flax harvested in the spring.

 The flax plant has a single stem that grows up to four feet tall.  The fiber is in the stem.  Initially, the stem is green, but turns yellow as the plant ripens and readies for harvest. When flax plants were harvested for fiber, mature plants were pulled up by their roots. Harvested plants were allowed to dry, then retted.  Retting is a process of soaking flax to separate the fiber from the woody tissue (straw).  Egyptians dyed some flax threads.  Blue and purple dyes were derived from shellfish (primarily the murex) which lived in the Mediterranean Sea. Scarlet dye came from the eggs and carcasses of a worm (Coccus ilicus) which lived on the leaves of holly plants.

 Symbolism: Purity 

 In ancient times, linen symbolized purity and in Revelation (15:5-6) St. John used “clean, shining linen” as a symbol for purity.  Purity means spotless, stainless, free from what pollutes; containing nothing that does not properly belong; free from moral fault or guilt. The Hebrew verb for purify, tāhēr, also means to cleanse or to be clean. The Tabernacle complex with its linen curtains was a symbol of the Israelite’s need to be clean or pure before God.  In the Tabernacle animals were sacrificed and animal blood shed to accomplish ritual purification.  Today when individuals accept Christ as their Savior, they are purified (cleansed) or made spotless in relation to former sins.  Then, the challenge of living a pure life begins.

 Of the 33 verses in the New International Version Study Bible (2002) which referred to purity, about 1/3 centered on the individual’s heart  In the Old Testament, King David implored God to “create in me a pure heart” (Psalm 51:10).  King David questioned who can approach God and stand before him? The answer was “He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to an idol or swear by what is false” (Psalm 24:3–4).

 In the New Testament there is a similar focus on Christians keeping their heart pure. Christ taught, “Blessed are the pure in heart for they will see God” (Matthew 5:8).  Paul told Timothy that love (the greatest of all virtues) comes from a pure heart, a good conscience, and a sincere faith (1Timothy 1:5).  He instructed Timothy to “Flee the evil desires of youth, and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart” (2 Timothy 2:22).  Paul cautioned Timothy to have nothing to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because they produce quarrels (verse 23).

  Taken together, these verses from the Old and New Testament communicated that to please God, Christians must keep their hearts pure.  Keeping a pure hearts begins with a sincere faith in Christ as our Savior. Purity means that we love one another and are free from moral guilt about how we act toward and think about each other.   Purity is about actively pursuing faith, love, and peace.  In addition to positive actions that help us to grow toward purity, the Bible verses on a pure heart articulated certain behaviors to avoid.  These behaviors are worshipping idols, lying, becoming involved in nonproductive arguments and quarrels, and pursuing evil desires of youth, e.g., sexual debauchery.

 I want to keep my heart pure; however, sometime I do not restrain my impulses. At times I fill my life with irreverent thoughts and actions.  In the past I often made my career an idol rather than keeping God at the center of my life. Most certainly I have engaged in foolish and stupid arguments, rationalizing them in the name of “devil’s advocate” or “intellectual debate.”  How, then, can I keep a clean, pure heart so I can see God in my day-to-day life?  The answer for me is the same as it was for the Israelites. I must agree with God about my sins. When I do, I can be at-one with God. God has made it easy for me to reconcile myself to him and his purity. I John 1:9 says if we confess our sins, God will cleanse us from sin and purify us from our unrighteousness.  Having a pure, clean heart is as simple as going to God admitting my sin and asking His forgiveness.

Reflection. When did you last clean up or purify your life?  Would now be a good time to enact I John 1:9 in your relationship with Christ?

I love Bible plants along with their symbolism. If you want to learn more about them, read my two books: 1) Rooted in God and 2) God as a Gardener. You can purchase them from my website: Carolyn Roth Ministry at http://www.CarolynRothMinistry.com/

Copyright July 31, 2013; Carolyn A. Roth

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The First Thistle

 

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Read Genesis Chapter 3 for the story of thistles and thorns on earth.

Prior to Adam and Eve’s sin, the earth contained only plants that were identified by God as good and desirable for man and animals to eat  (Genesis 1: 12, 29-30). When Adam and Eve stepped outside of God’s plan (sinned), the entire created world changed. One change was that God cursed the ground because of Adam’s disobedience (Genesis 3:17-19). No longer would Adam and Eve be caretakers of a sumptuous garden with all it produced. Rather, in sorrow Adam and Eve would be required to toil (work, sweat) for the food they ate. From God’s judgment forward, the soil would grow thorns and thistles as well as plants and trees for food. Cultivating the ground for desirable crops created an environment where certain native plants became weeds, of which thorns and thistles were the most burdensome (Gen. 3:18).

It is not possible to ascertain which thorns and thistles God was referring to when he cursed the earth with thorns and thistles (Gen. 3:13). Over 20 different words are used for thorny plants in Hebrew versions of the Bible. Today the Holy Land is a sunny, largely arid region with many species of thistle. Often thistles are covered with spiny projections which are protective in nature. Many thistle seeds have feathery growths. When blown by the wind, feathery seeds float over a wide region. Following rain, large crops of thistles grow rapidly.  Although some thorns and thistles are beautiful to the eye, gardeners rarely want them in a field or garden; thistles are seen as invasive weeds.

Milk Thistle

One thistle present in Israel for thousands of years is the Silybum marianum, or blessed milk thistle. Milk thistles have both spines and thorns. The milk thistle is adapted to dry, hot, sunny areas to include waste areas. In most areas milk thistle is considered an invasive, noxious weed. Once established, it forms large (2-6 feet) dense clumps that displace desirable forage plants.  Because of its size and spiny leaves, milk thistles interfere with grazing livestock.  Milk thistle accumulates nitrogen and when ingested can be lethal to livestock. Fully mature seeds are glossy, brown to black, with an umbrella-like appendage. When released, seeds blow over a wide region.  A single flower head can produce 100 – 200 seeds.  Seeds can lay dormant in the soil up to nine years, then germinate after a rainfall.

Symbolism: Consequences

When Adam and Eve sinned, the created universe including plants became subject to death (Romans 8: 19-23). Since that time all creation has been groaning together as if under the pains of labor (Vine, 1996).  In the Greek language, mâshash is the word for groan. Mâshash implies a sense of groping, feeling, and searching. Both man and plants are reaching out, groping, for the new heaven and earth when creation will be set free of its death sentence. For both man and plants, freedom from death will occur with the second coming of Christ and establishment of His kingdom on earth.

Man created an environment in which thorns and thistles evolved. Sometimes I do that — I create an environment for thorns and thistles rather than for flowers to grow. In the past I have taken on major projects at home, church or in my job. Like Adam and Eve, I have sweated over the projects, expending tremendous energy and time. Despite my efforts, some project failed completely or partially – thorns and thistles resulted rather than beautiful flowers.

Looking back on these projects, I know that more often than not weeds resulted because of my disobedience. I let pride combined with my desire to “do it my way” block out listening to God, whether He was instructing me through another individual, His word (Bible), or my conscience.  At the same time, I know that I am groping and sometimes even groaning – trying to find my way toward God. I really want to obey His word and submit fully to His plan for my life.

Reflection: What about you – are you obeying God? Do you let Him create beautiful flowers in your life; or, alternatively, do your actions produce thorns and thistles?

Prayer: God, help me to plan and plant the garden of my life so that I am always obeying You. Help me to live so close to You so there are no spaces for thorns and thistles to spring up in my life.

I love Bible plants along with their symbolism. If you want to learn more about them, read my two books: 1) Rooted in God and 2) God as a Gardener. You can purchase them from my website: Carolyn Roth Ministry at http://www.CarolynRothMinistry.com/

Copyright July 31, 2013; Carolyn A. Roth.

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Tree of Life

Read Genesis chapter 3 in an Amplified or New International Version Study Bible.

The Tree of Life was located near the center of the Garden of Eden (Genesis 2: 9) along with the Tree of Knowledge of good and evil. Although God told Adam that he could not eat from the Tree of Knowledge, God gave no prohibition against eating fruit from the Tree of Life (Genesis 2: 16). All trees in the Garden were attractive to the eye and/or good for food, so it is likely that Adam and Eve ate the fruit of the Tree of Life while they lived in the Garden. After Adam and Eve disobeyed, God reflected on their new found knowledge and its implication. God said: “The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat and live forever (Genesis 3: 22).” Adam and Eve’s access to the Tree of Life was based on a proper relationship with God.

To prevent Adam and Eve from eating the fruit of the Tree of Life, God expelled them from the Garden of Eden. God placed cherubim (more than one) on the east side of the Garden to keep Adam and Eve from reentering Eden. The cherubim had a flaming sword that flashed back and forth to block the way to the Tree of Life (Genesis 3:24).

The Garden of Eden was destroyed before or during the great flood of Noah’s time when the topography of the land was changed; however, the Tree of Life was not destroyed. Rather, the Tree of Life was moved.  In the New Testament book of Revelation, John wrote about the Tree of Life in two different chapters. When speaking to the Church of Ephesus, Christ said, “to him who overcomes, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God” (Rev. 2:7). At that time the Tree of Life was located in paradise. Christ testified that paradise was an existent place when He said to the thief on the cross, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43. Paradise is the place of happiness and rest between death and resurrection (NIV Study Bible notes, 2002, p. 1618).

The Tree of Life is destined to return to earth. In the new Jerusalem a river of water will flow from the throne of God down the middle of a great street (Revelation 22:1). The Tree of Life is located on both sides of the river that flows from God’s throne. The Tree of Life will produce a different variety of fruit each month (Rev. 22:3). Christians who are victorious in overcoming evil (Rev. 7: 14) will eat the fruit of the Tree of Life (Rev. 7:14, 22:14). The leaves of the Tree of Life will be used for healing of the nations (Rev. 22:2).

Symbolism: Life

In the Hebrew of the Old Testament, the word associated with Life in the Tree of Life is “chay.”  “Chay” means alive, living thing, and life that lives and is contrasted with death. Because Adam and Eve disobeyed God, they forfeited eternal life on earth. Even though God banished them from the Garden of Eden, He remained their Father. He continued to interact with them and their children. God made a way for Adam and Eve’s offspring to be reconciled to Him and have a life that lives forever. The way is through His son, Christ, who died once for all mankind.

Just as God wanted a relationship with Adam and Eve, He desires a relationship with each of us. The question is whether or not we are willing to symbolically eat from the Tree of Life here and now. In the New Testament book of John, Christ told Nicodemus that, “flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit” (John 3: 5) and “whoever believes in him (Christ) is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son (John 3:18. The birth and death of Christ was the victory over Satan predicted in Genesis 3:15 which Christ explained, “for God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him (Christ) shall not perish but have eternal life (John, 3:16)

My earthly parents (Adam and Eve) were condemned to an earthly death, expelled from Eden, and barred from eating fruit from the Tree of Life, however, I am assured of eternal life. By accepting a relationship with Christ, I am no longer condemned to death; but will live in eternity.

Reflection. What about you? Where are you in the process and progress of your life? Is your future eternal death or eternal life?

I love Bible plants along with their symbolism. If you want to learn more about them, read my two books: 1) Rooted in God and 2) God as a Gardener. You can purchase them from my website: Carolyn Roth Ministry at http://www.CarolynRothMinistry.com/

Copyright December 19, 2010, Carolyn A. Roth; all rights reserved.

Ark of Cypress Wood

Read Genesis 6:9-8:22 for the story of Noah and the cypress wood ark.

Noah was oveCypress, Jezreel Valleyr 500 years-of-age when God directed him to build an ark (type of boat). The purpose of the ark was to save Noah, his family, and animals from a pending deluge that would sweep over the known world (Genesis 6: 9 – 8:22). Noah was chosen because he was a righteous man, blameless among the corrupt and violent people of his time. Noah had three sons — Shem, Ham and Japheth — who helped him build the ark. The Bible does not identify where Noah lived while building the ark; however, after the deluge the ark landed on Mount Ararat. Today the state of Ararat is in the Republic of Armenia in Asia Minor.

God directed Noah to build the ark from cypress wood and to coat it with pitch inside and out. The ark was rectangular: 450 feet long, 75 feet wide, and 45 feet high. Although the roof was not described in Genesis, most likely it was flat as was the floor of the ark. Many scholars believe the roof extended outward over the sides of the ark. The sides of the ark were finished up to 18 inches of the top. The 18 inch opening was for ventilation and light. At one side of the ark, there was a door for entry and exit. (Click the link at the top of the page to see a probable image of the ark).

Most of us can remember seeing pictures of the ark from Bible story books that we read as children. In those books, the front (bow or prow) of the ark was always pointed and often the back (stern) was narrowed. In actuality, the ark had no need for a bow or stern because the ark did not plow through the water nor was it steered by a rudder. Instead, the ark was designed to float on the top of the water and to withstand the impact of rain and flood waters.

After the ark was constructed, Noah, his family, and animals entered the ark. Then God closed the door. After seven days the rain started and “all the springs of the great deep burst forth” (Genesis 7: 11). Many Christian scholars assert that the deluge was turbulent and included movement of the earth’s tectonic plates resulting in massive tsunami floods. The ark’s occupants remained safely in the ark almost a year: they entered the 10th day of the second month and exited the 27th day of the second month of the following year.

Cypress Tree

Today’s scholars are not 100% sure which tree was used on construction of the ark. The landscape of the earth was destroyed by the great deluge and some former plants were destroyed. Several translations of the Bible identify that Noah used cypress wood (AKA gopher wood).  The cypress tree is large, strong and full of resin that acted as a barrier against water seeping into wood and sinking the ark. The wild Cupressus sempervirens var. horizontalis (Mediterranean cypress) is most commonly associated with the cypress tree used in construction of the ark. The Latin word semper means always or ever, while the word virens means green; thus the translation is evergreen. Archeological evidence revealed that cypress trees grew abundantly in Ararat in the post-deluge period. Frequently, the cypress tree is  columnar in shape and grows to a height of 115 feet. The tree top is cone shaped. Cypress wood is known for its durability; it was a favorite tree of early Phoenician ship builders. Oil produced from the tree has a woody, slightly spicy smell.

Symbolism:  Immortality

AlthouCypress trees outside mausoleum in Jerusalemgh today the cypress tree is associated with sadness and mourning e.g., it is called the Funeral or Graveyard Cypress because it is planted in Mediterranean cemeteries, in ancient times the cypress was a symbol of immortality. In 1888, John Worcester published Correspondences of the Bible: the Plants. Correspondences refer to the spiritual meaning behind the plants found in the Bible. Worcester wrote that in the upward tip of the columnar-shaped cypress tree and in every shoot and leaf, the cypress points to immortal life with God in heaven (Worcester, 1888, reprint 2009). The cypress-wood ark carried eight individuals through the raging deluge that destroyed life in the then known world. Not surprisingly the tree was associated with immortality through God’s providence.

When I looked up “immortality” in several Bibles, I found only one Old Testament reference.  Proverbs 12: 28 reads, “In the way of righteousness there is life; along that path is immortality.” Through Noah’s righteousness the human race continued on earth, yet Noah’s righteousness and obedience did not guarantee immortality for the human race. Only by accepting the gospel of Christ are men and women guaranteed spirituality immortality (2 Timothy 1:11). Accepting the good news of salvation from Christ is not dependent on our righteousness; rather it is a gift from Christ. This gift came with a cost which Christ paid through His life, death, and resurrection.

Receiving the gift of spiritual immortality from Christ does not absolve men and women from acting right (or righteous). Instead Christ calls us to a new life which includes a new way of behaving. We can no longer ignore the Bible and its guidelines for our new life. Rather, the Bible is our, “How to Live” book.

Thought: Does gratitude for you new life and spiritual immortality result in more than a quick “thank you” to God every now and then?

I love Bible plants along with their symbolism. If you want to learn more about them, read my two books: 1) Rooted in God and 2) God as a Gardener. You can purchase them from my website: Carolyn Roth Ministry at http://www.CarolynRothMinistry.com/

Copyright March 10, 2011, Carolyn A. Roth; all rights reserved.

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Abraham’s symbol of commitment

Tamarisk (2)When I looked back over my blog entries, this one was the most read. So I am re-posting it with a few changes.

Abraham  planted tamarisk trees at Beersheba. Read Genesis 21:22-34.

In about 2091 B.C., God directed Abraham to leave Haran and travel to Canaan. God told Abraham that in Canaan, the Promised Land, He would make Abraham the father of a great nation (Genesis chapters 12–17). When Abraham left Haran he was about 75 years old. He traveled with his wife Sarah and his nephew Lot.  After entering Canaan, Abraham pitched his tents between Bethel (on the west) and Ai (on the east).  With the exception of a brief time in Egypt, Abraham lived in this region for the next 14 – 15 years.

When Abraham was 99 years old, he had a visit from three angels (Genesis chapter 18). The angels announced that Sarah would give birth to Abraham’s son and that they planned to destroy Sodom for the depraved sinfulness of its people. Shortly after Sodom’s destruction, Abraham left the Bethel-Ai region and traveled south into the Negev Desert (Genesis chapter 20). He spent a short time near the city of Gerar (western Negev) where he met Abimelech, king of Gerar.  After Abimelech caught Abraham in a misrepresentation, Abraham left Gerar traveling south-east-east in the Negev Desert area.  After some days journey, Abraham camped. In this area Abraham and Sarah’s son, Isaac, was born (2066 B.C.) when Abraham was 100 years old (Genesis 21: 1 – 7).

With these events in mind, the Bible tells a short but important story called “The Treaty at Beersheba” in which Abraham plants tamarisk trees. The story begins with Abimelech, King of Gerar and his military commander’s arrival at Abraham’s campsite.  The purpose of Abimelech’s visit was to elicit an oath from Abraham that he would not “deal falsely,” but with kindness (friendship) toward Abimelech and his descendents. Willingly, Abraham gave Abimelech his oath. Then Abraham complains to Abimelech about a well that Abraham’s men dug and Abimelech’s servants seized. Abimelech expressed surprise – he did not know his servants had seized the well. Because Abraham wanted the well, he gave Abimelech seven ewe lambs in return for Abimelech’s oath that the well belonged to Abraham. The site became known as Beersheba, “the well of the oath.” After Abimelech returned to Gerar, Abraham planted a tamarisk, or a grove of tamarisk trees, at Beersheba. There Abraham called on El Ôlām, naming God the Eternal (forever, everlasting) God. The Bible recorded that Abraham stayed in the area a “long time” (Genesis 21:34).

Beersheba is the only place that the Bible recorded Abraham planting trees. Today there is still an ancient well located at, or near, this site called Abraham’s well and tamarisk trees grow in the area.

The Tamarisk Tree

Most botanists and Christian scholars are unanimous in their agreement that the trees that Abraham planted were the Tamarix aphylla. It is also called the athel pine, and athel tree.  The tamarisk is a commonly occurring tree in the Middle East and probably originated in semi-arid to arid northern Africa and western Asia. It is evergreen tree and can reach a height of 50 feet. The tree grows needles rather than leaves; Aphylla means “without leaves.” Often needles excrete salt on their surfaces which give the needles a white color. Because the T. aphylla excretes salt, it is sometimes called a “salt cedar.” The tamarisk tree provides shade and a pleasant coolness.  At night, moisture increases in the cool air. Water vapor adheres to the salt particles excreted on branches and needles and forms droplets. In the morning tiny droplets of water appear on the thin branches. As the morning sun warms the air, the water droplets evaporate and cool the tree and the shade below it. The water droplets are most plentiful after a humid night and generally evaporate before noon.

Symbolism: Commitment

Why did Abraham plant a Tamarix aphylla or a grove of T. aphylla at Beersheba? The answer could be as simple as Abraham was familiar with living in the high country of Canaan between Bethel and Ai where there were tall trees for shade, coolness and beauty. He wanted to reproduce this environment in his new home.  Another answer is that the tree was a memorial to the oath between himself and Abimelech. This reason doesn’t seem as likely because Abraham named the place Beersheba, meaning the well of the oath. This name Beersheba was a reminder or memorial to the oath between Abraham and Abimelech.

I believe that Abraham planted the Tamarix trees as a memorial to his re-commitment to El Ôlām, the everlasting God. This interpretation is supported by events in time – Abraham now had the son that God promised, peace with his neighbors, and water for physical life in the dessert.  God kept his promises to Abraham; Abraham’s life is filled with blessings. God welcomes individuals who have sinned to turn to Him. In Ezekiel 18: 21- 22 we can read, “if a wicked man turns away from all the sins he committed and keeps all my decrees and does what is just and right, he will surely live; he will not die. None of the offenses he has committed will be remembered against him.” Ezekiel (520 – 480 B.C.) lived 1500 years after Abraham. Abraham didn’t have the benefit of Ezekiel’s instruction; but Abraham was aware that he had sinned by not believing that God would provide a son for him through Sarah and misrepresenting to Abimelech that Sarah was his sister rather than his wife. It is probably that when Abraham called on El Ôlām (Genesis 21:  33), he built an altar and offered sacrifices for his sins (Genesis 12:8). Then, Abraham memorializes his re-commitment to God by planting Tamarix trees.

We should not have to think deeply about committing our lives to God. There is ample evidence in the scriptures that God wants His people to be fully committed to Him; and God blesses both nations and individuals who commit to him. Samuel told the Israelites that they must first returned to the Lord and commit themselves to Him, and then God would deliver them from the hand of the Philistines (I Samuel 7:3). Psalm 37:5 reads, “commit your ways to the Lord; trust in him and he will do this: He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn, the justice of your cause like the noonday sun.”   Finally, Proverbs 16:3 instructs us to “commit to the Lord whatever you do and your plans will succeed.”  The preceding Bible verses are conditional statements, they are If – Then statements.  If nations and individuals commit to the Lord, then God will deliver them, and He will make their righteousness shine and their plans succeed. Notice — we must take the first step by committing ourselves and our ways to God.

The question is: Why don’t we commit — seriously commit — our ways to God? Do we simply forget to make these commitments? Do we think God doesn’t care about what we do or want to do? Do we think that we can do it ourselves?  Whatever the reasons for not committing our ways to God, they are not adequate or sufficient. God is very clear: if we want our plans to succeed, we must commit them to God.  Commitment doesn’t mean half heartedly saying to God, “I am going to do_____ (you fill in the blank) and I commit it to you.” Committing ourselves and our plans to God is more than a quick e-mail prayer. Real commitment means taking time to discern with God what His will for our lives entails. Do we stay in our current job or change? Is this the right person for me to marry? Do I buy this new car or get my current one repaired? Committing our ways to God often requires that we do not go with the moment; rather we pause, seek, and reflect on Biblical precepts before making decisions; and we commit the decisions to God.

Thought: “The eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him” (II Chronicles 16:9). Do you want to be strengthened by God?  What should you change in your life to make this happen?

I love Bible plants along with their symbolism. If you want to learn more about them, read my two books: 1) Rooted in God and 2) God as a Gardener. You can purchase them from my website: Carolyn Roth Ministry at http://www.CarolynRothMinistry.com/

Copyright: Carolyn A. Roth, 1/14

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The Rose of Sharon

Tulipa sharonensisSong of Songs describes the love between a man and a woman; the reference to Rose of Sharon is in chapter 2.

The book Song of Songs is also called Song of Solomon and the Canticles. The title, Song of Songs, is a Hebrew idiom meaning “the most exquisite song” (MacDonald, 1995).  The Song is a dialogue between the Beloved (a maid) and her Lover (Solomon), with minor input from Friends.  An advantage of reading Song of Songs in the New International Version Study Bible (2002) is that each speaker is clearly marked.  Song of Songs includes erotic analogies that can be uncomfortable if considered outside the belief that sexual desire is God-given, beautiful, and to be celebrated in the context of a heterosexual, committed and loving relationship.  According to Jewish tradition, Solomon wrote the Song in his youth prior to becoming entangled in polygamy and concubinage.  This traditional view is consistent with Song of Solomon chapter 2:3 in which the Beloved compares Solomon to other young men.

The name of the Beloved is not given and her lineage is unclear.  In one place Solomon refers to her as “O, prince’s daughter!” (Song of Songs, 7:1); however, this reference could allude to the nobility of her beauty and character rather than her birth.  In another place, Friends call the Beloved a Shulammite (Song of Songs 6:13).   Shulammite could indicate that the Beloved was from Shunen, a territory allocated to Issachar in the division of tribal lands (Joshua 19:18).  Alternatively, Shulammite could be a feminine form of Solomon in which case the Friends named her “Solomon’s girl” (Song of Solomon 6:13).  Finally, possibly Shulammite does not refer directly to the Beloved; but to a type of dance in which two groups of dancers weave in and out with one another.

The Beloved called herself a rose of Sharon.  The Sharon Plain was located along the Mediterranean Sea south of Mount Carmel.  Sixty miles long and 10 miles wide, the Sharon Plain was one of the largest valley-plains in ancient Israel. In the time of Solomon, the Sharon plain was well-known for its fertility, beauty, and majesty, having many flowers and trees.  Clearly, the Beloved adored her Lover (Song of Songs 1:4).  At the same time, she did not underrate herself.  In giving herself, she offered her Lover the most perfect flower known — a rose of Sharon.

Rose of Sharon

          In the United States scholars have debated the exact Rose of Sharon flower.  The popular Rose of Sharon bush (see above)  is the Hibiscus syriacus; however, the hibiscus is not the ancient Israel Rose of Sharon.  Past professor of Biblical Botany at the Hebrew University, Dr. Ephraim HaReubeni claimed that the Rose of Sharon was a tulip. Most likely the tulip species is the Tulipa agenensis subspecies sharonensis, also known as the Sharon tulip and sun’s-eye tulip.

In Israel the Tulipa agenensis is considered a wildflower and at one time grew abundantly across Israel. Now, because of real estate develop, the Sharon tulip is harder to find in the wild. The Sharon tulip is salt resistant and prefers a neutral to acid soil and full sun.  It thrives where summers are dry and winters are cold. It grows 8-12 inches tall. The  Sharon tulips color and shape make it unique and add to its seeming perfection. Outer petals are longer (up to 2 inches long and 1 inch wide) and more pointed than inner petals.  The outer surfaces of tulip petals are uniformly red.  Inside, the tulip petal has a distinct black area at the base that extends about the half way up the sides of each petal.  A yellow halo surrounds the black on most petals.  In most cases tulips spread through asexual reproduction with bulbs producing small bulbs or bulblets.

Symbolism:  Perfection

The rose of Sharon refers to perfection.  For the ancients a rose – in this case a tulip – was the most perfect of all flowers.  Perhaps not inconsequential, the tulip is a perfect or complete flower having stamens and pistils on the same flower.  When flowers or persons are perfect, they lack no essential detail and are without fault or defect. Although the Beloved identifies that she is dark skinned from working outside in the sun, nonetheless, she is perfect for her mate.

My husband is the perfect husband for me and I am the perfect wife for him.  After 20 years of marriage and continued reinforcement from Bruce, finally I believe he sees me as perfect.  In the 20 years, I have acquired wrinkles and sags, but to him I am still perfect. His unswerving love and belief in my perfection gives me security even with characteristics the world identifies as defects.  Because Bruce views me as perfect does not mean that he doesn’t gently coach me when I am moody, or whiny, or my thinking is off track.

God is perfect and his ways are perfect (2 Samuel 22:31; Psalm 18:32; Matthew 5:48).  When Christ lived on earth, he was without fault or defect and lacked no detail in his personality to be the perfect human (Hebrews 4:15).  Because I have been redeemed by Christ, when God looks at me, he sees Christ’s perfection, not my defects.  Even more than Bruce seeing me as the perfect wife, God sees me as his perfect child.

Saint Paul talked about perfection in his letter to the Philippians (Philippians 3:10-14).  He wrote how much he wanted to know Christ and become like the perfect Christ.  Paul admitted that he was not yet perfect, but he was going to keep trying to be like Christ.  Paul believed it was important to forget what he was like and did in the past and strain forward to what was ahead.

Paul seemed to have a keen understanding of perfection in the Christian life.  It means being committed fully to Christ and modeling our lives after Christ’s life.  Perfection is about forgetting past inadequacies that the devil gleefully uses to keep us feeling insecure in our relationship with Christ.  Perfection focuses on the present and future.  For Christians the future is home with Christ in heaven.

Reflection:   Reflect on your perfection in God’s sight.  Doesn’t is allow you to take a deep breath and relax securely in His care?

I love Bible plants along with their symbolism. If you want to learn more about them, read my two books: 1) Rooted in God and 2) God as a Gardener. You can purchase them from my website: Carolyn Roth Ministry at http://www.CarolynRothMinistry.com/

Copyright: January 17, 2012; carolyn a. roth; Update March 26, 2017

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For-sightful Forsythia

Forsythia

The forsythia (Forsythia europaea) is an ornamental shrub; a member of the olive family of plants. There are about eleven species. Most are native to eastern Asia and one native to south-eastern Europe. Some gardeners refer to forsythia as “Golden Bell.”

Forsythias are an early-spring flowering deciduous shrub. Back home in southern Pennsylvania, our forsythia bush bloomed in April, generally the earliest flower to bloom. Our forsythia bush grew on a trellis and was about four feet tall; however, forsythia bushes can grow up to 20 feet tall. Forsythia also makes an attractive hedgerow if you are willing to prune them repeatedly. The deeply four-lobed flower are medium, the petals joined only at the base. Petals become pendant in rainy weather, shielding reproductive parts. Flowers appear before leaves.

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Low hanging forsythia often take root in the soil, and can be removed for transplanting. Commercial propagation occurs through cuttings, taken from green wood in late spring to early summer after forsythia flowers. Alternatively, cuttings may be taken between November and February.

For the longest time, tradition advocated that forsythia flowers produced the milk sugar (lactose). Lactose rarely occurs in other natural sources except milk. However, the presence of lactose was never confirmed.

Christian Fore-sight

I’m multitasking, writing this column and watching a popular news channel. A woman, who wrote a book, claimed Radical Islam wants to create an Armageddon-like situation in the Middle East. Their approach is to kill any group who disagrees with them, even peace-loving Muslims. For any group to aspire to such a goal is mind-boggling.

St. John wrote about Armageddon in Revelation. If you have never studied Revelation, now would be the time. St. John foresees the end times (the end of the known world) and a huge battle which includes the world’s superpowers. The battle ends with blood, destruction, and death of millions.

Seeing and writing about the Battle of Armageddon his battle must have been difficult for the sensitive apostle. I don’t know what will happen in the Middle East; however, I do believe in the end-time prophecy fore-seen by John. But, I am not spending my time working for it or praying for it to come. Instead, I am praying for the salvation of souls, even of the jihadists.

Reflection: What about you? Do you remember to pray for salvation of the terrorists who are inflecting inhumane atrocities as well as their victims?

I love Bible plants along with their symbolism. If you want to learn more about them, read my two books: 1) Rooted in God and 2) God as a Gardener. You can purchase them from my website: Carolyn Roth Ministry at http://www.CarolynRothMinistry.com/

Copyright: March 1, 2015 by Carolyn A. Roth; Updated March 6, 2017. all rights reserved.

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Aloe and Myrrh Wrapped Body

Today is the most solemn day in the Christian calendar.  By 9:00 a.m., Christ was crucified.

Jewish law and custom required immediate burial of Jesus’ dead body. Mosaic Law required that Jews bury the body of a man put to death by hanging on a tree the same day he died (Deuteronomy 21:22-23). The reason for this Mosaic requirement was so that the land not be desecrated by a dead body remaining un-buried. The book of Tobit (Apocrypha, 2009) described the value Jews placed on seeing that all slain Jews had a proper burial even when the Jews were in exile.

Jesus’ crucified body died about 3:00 p.m. on Friday. By Jewish custom, Friday was the Day of Preparation for the Saturday Sabbath. Preparation Day ended at about 6:00 p.m. on Friday when the Sabbath began. No work was allowed on the Sabbath to include burying a dead body. Jesus followers had about three hours between the time he died and the start of the Sabbath celebration.

Joseph of Arimathea was a prominent member of the Jewish council who believed that Jesus was the Messiah. Boldly, Joseph went to Pilate and asked for Jesus’ body. After confirming with the centurion that Jesus was dead, Pilate released Jesus’ body to Joseph.

Along with Nicodemus, Joseph took Jesus’ body from the cross. They wrapped the body in linen stripes and 75 pounds of mixed aloe and myrrh. The Jewish burial custom of using spices in burial linens was associated with covering the smell of the decaying body.  Because aloe had little odor, possibly the aloes were used to “fix” or hold the scent of the myrrh.

Aloe vera

Aloe

The aloe of the New Testament is the Aloe vera also known as the Aloe barbadensis, Aloe vulgaris (common aloe) and the medicinal aloe. Some sources identified the aloe as the oldest medicinal plant. The aloe is distributed in Mediterranean woodlands and shrub-lands in hard rock outcrops including maritime sands. When aloe is harvested for its medicinal gel, older leaves are harvested as they are larger and contain more gel.

Myrrh

The Israelite myrrh plant is the Commiphora abyssinic. The Hebrew word for myrrh is môr or môwr which means bitter, possibly because myrrh has a bitter taste (Strong, 2010). Around 1876-1880 B.C., Jacob described myrrh as one of the best products of Canaan and directed his sons to take myrrh to Egypt to trade for grain (Genesis 43:11-14). In present day Israel, the myrrh tree grows in the Biblical Landscape Reserve (Neot Kedumim). Although often referred to as a spice, myrrh is the dried resin from the myrrh tree. When the resin is harvested, lateral cuts are made on the trunk or branches. An aromatic gum resin exudes from the wounds. When the resin is exposed to the air, the gum hardens forming irregular shaped yellow or brown globules. The globules smell pleasant but have a bitter taste. We saw myrrh in the bazaar in the old city of Jerusalem. The myrrh was in sharp-edged, marble-size pieces. Myrrh continues to be used today as sweet smelling incense for religious celebrations.

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Symbolism: Healing

Traditionally, aloe has been associated with healing.  In the book of Isaiah (Isaiah 53:5, NIV, 2002) we read these prophetic words about Christ, “But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.” Jesus body was dead; therefore, aloes weren’t used to heal him. The healing aloes in Jesus’ burial cloth exemplified Jesus’ continued healing of us even after his physical death.

After Jesus’ resurrection some individuals in Judea and the Roman Empire accepted healing from Jesus. Other individuals weren’t willing to be healed. Some couldn’t comprehend that a man would die for their sins. Others simply didn’t believe that they were all that bad; why would someone need to die for their few sins? For still others it was easier to continue their same religious observances, e.g., make an animal sacrifice or give a little money into a treasury, than to accept a new way of thinking.

The rationale and rationalizations that individuals used 2,000 years ago for not accepting healing from Jesus are the same ones that individuals use today. On Sunday morning in church, we pray the “Prayers of the People.” Frequently, there are prayer requests for healing – surgery, diagnostic tests, cancer – from members of the congregation. I’m always surprised that congregates don’t offer more prayers for loved ones’ spiritual healing. My dear friend isn’t a Christian; I love him so much. From time to time, I ask congregates to pray that he comes to a saving knowledge of Christ. I really should ask them to pray for him every Sunday.

I love Bible plants along with their symbolism. If you want to learn more about them, read my two books: 1) Rooted in God and 2) God as a Gardener. You can purchase them from my website: Carolyn Roth Ministry at http://www.CarolynRothMinistry.com/

Copyright March 25, 2016; Carolyn A. Roth

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What a terrible name!

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This beautiful plant (Acanthus spinosus) has a terrible common name, that is,” bear’s breeches.” The genus name, Acanthus, comes from the Greek word akantha meaning spine in reference to the toothed edges on leaves in some species. The species name, spinosus, means spiny in reference to the rigid spines on the leaves. Having recorded this information about spines, my own observation of Acanthus spinosus in our church Bible garden is that the leaves are a beautiful shiny green, but, not necessarily spiny or pointy. On the other hand, flowers on the vertical stock feel spiny when touched.

The A. spinosus shrub is native to the Mediterranean region. In the United States, it grows in Plant Zones 5-9. Acanthus leaves have a classical appearance and were the source of the Corinthian leaf motif used as a decoration in ancient Greek and Roman art and architecture.

At our church, I gave the first through third graders a tour of the Bible garden. When we came to the Acanthus spinosum, I asked them to touch the edge of the leaves to feel the spiny nature of the leave. None of them thought the leave were prickly. It was a different story when they touched the vertical, mauve flower that grew well above the plant leaves. None of the children could wrap their hands around the plant because it was so prickly.

Take a look at the photograph of the Acanthus spinosus flower stalk. It resembles the digitalis flower and stalk, but blooms are hardier. Using your sight only, you may decide to plant this easy to grow shrub in your garden; but remember the flower isn’t a good choice in a cut flower arrangements that may be touched.

If you view the “so called” pleasures of the world with your sight only, you may decide to indulge in them. But when you spend more time partaking of them, you realize they are spiny, even prickly. These “pleasure” are not something you really want to rub up against or become immersed in.

Reflection: Are there any activities in your life that are hurting you, that you should stay away from?

I love Bible plants along with their symbolism. If you want to learn more about them, read my two books: 1) Rooted in God and 2) God as a Gardener. You can purchase them from my website: Carolyn Roth Ministry at http://www.CarolynRothMinistry.com/

Copyright: February 3, 2016; Carolyn Adams Roth

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